By Raffique Shah
December 11, 2023
You’d think the bloodletting in The Gaza, especially when seen through the lens of Al Jazeera, would deter any country that is involved in disputes over territories from sliding into war. But, because of man, history is often doomed to repeat itself.
Let me say I have tried, on my own, to limit the exposure by television to the genocide that Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. It does not always work. Rosina will sit quietly and cry, watching children of different ages, but mostly one ethnicity, screaming in pain after Israeli bombs destroy the hospitals they call shelters.
Conversely, the hospitals, or what is left of them, have become shelters to the vulnerable who hope the Zionists would have compassion and not bomb and destroy them, taking with them hundreds of precious lives. Sadly, they are wrong. Those poor children will be maimed, and if they are lucky they will have a swift but excruciatingly painful death. Imagine that. Let’s also not forget those children who have been left homeless, orphaned and hungry. The Gaza is indelibly etched in our minds as the cockpit of the world. A permanent war, spanning decades and hundreds of thousands of mainly Palestinian lives.
As news, it displaced the Russia-Ukraine war, in which Europe and America saw the end of the world. After all, white lives were at stake. Meanwhile, in our part of the world, our leaders talk about the Caribbean being a zone of peace. However, they are spoiling for a war or several wars, as long as their backsides are protected by Big Brother in Washington.
So they provoke Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro into making noises that sound like threats over which he might fire a shot or two, and the new power centre in these parts, Guyana, will add weapons acquired through its new-found oil wealth, knowing well that Big Brother Sam wants Maduro out, whatever the cost. What’s the basis for this war they are spoiling for? Nobody seems to know.
As a student of history, I have known since I was in secondary school that Venezuela considers parts of Trinidad and the Caribbean to be its territory. Time was when the Guardia National will parade—they call it patrol—up and down the Gulf and waters around us, picking up hapless fisherfolk, locking them up for a few days, and then sending them back to Trinidad minus their fishing equipment and their cash, and maybe some valuable drugs that were part of their business.
Other than incidents like those, we and the Venezuelans had a reasonably good thing going, mattered not which party or general was in power in Caracas. Indeed, over the last few decades things have been fairly quiet, with hardly a corpse thrown in the Gulf. In other words, we managed our relations well.
Then came Hugo Chavez whose idealism saw him spread his country’s bountiful oil wealth among the poorer nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. In lending a hand and much-needed petroleum products to his Caribbean “compadres” that saw them enjoy a virtual, buy-now pay-later plan.
Most governments from the English-speaking countries grabbed the much-needed assistance, but the Americans saw in Chavez a threat to their total control of their backyard, thus began the tension between Washington and Caracas.
I should add here that the status quo in which the bulk of poverty-stricken Venezuelans began to enjoy the fruits of their oil wealth also did not sit well with Washington. Overall, Hugo’s Petro-Caribe intervention helped the poorer neighbours. Under a similar non-petroleum arrangement, internally, the slums of Caracas and elsewhere enjoyed some relief in their cost of living and upliftment of their environments.
The more equitable distribution of Venezuela’s wealth disturbed America’s plan of persistent poverty for all; I mean, how else would they be seen as the saviours of the world?
Enter the new oil heavyweight in the region—Guyana—which easily replaced the heavily-sanctioned Venezuela as top producer and exporter. Almost suddenly, too, voices from Georgetown became louder in support of the USA and less discreet towards those who conduct business with Venezuela.
The most provocative statements came from one-time president Bharrat Jagdeo. He was indiscreet in openly warning PM Dr Keith Rowley about Maduro’s integrity.
Later, Jagdeo, responding to a journalist, said Guyana may actually consider supporting sanctions against Trinidad and Tobago, presumably called for them. Jagdeo comes across like an infant in international relations, showing no respect for Dr Rowley who, working closely with Minister Stuart Young, got the Americans to actually waive the sanctions.
Maduro had already sounded the drums of war over territorial claims with Guyana. A Columbus-era issue, it serves no purpose other than disturbing the peace in drunken stupor after a Saturday night at the bar and a donkey-cart ride home through the capital city.
There will be no war.